There is a fundamental tension that many organizations have to balance: pursuing efficiency on one side and being iconic on the other. This underlying tension has far-reaching consequences for brand executives and for technology strategy. And it shapes the related market for customer experience technology.
This post lays out why best-of-breed architectures will always be the driver of superior customer experiences. The best and most iconic customer experiences on the market always stand out. This is because someone invested time and effort to build something unique, using best-of-breed technology in innovative ways.
What's so special about customer experience?
Most organizations experience pressure to standardize in order to drive efficiency. To stay competitive, they strive to do more with less. Standardization and automation are effective ways to do this.
At the same time, organizations need to master another challenge: standing out from an abundance of other options. To be recognizable, brands have to be unique – ideally so unique they achieve iconic status. When that happens, they can be easily recognized from just a glimpse of their products, ads, or stores. Apple has achieved that status, as has Adidas, Nike, and many luxury brands.
Creating iconic customer experiences is a strategic move for brands because it's the most effective way to avoid becoming a commodity. Becoming a commodity sucks the profit-making power out of a product. If you're a commodity, there's no real relationship between your brand and your customers. Which means you’ve got no pricing power and no competitive advantage. In other words, you lost.
Given this dynamic, successful brands compete mainly through better customer experiences and more successful branding. It’s the number one priority of marketing executives. In the words of Alex Alexander, CIO of the Yoox Net-A-Porter Group, “It’s all about the experience.”
Why is consistency so important for brands – and standardization so bad?
Creating iconic customer experiences requires, first and foremost, consistency. Every touchpoint needs to be in sync. The closer brands get to this goal, the more recognizable a brand becomes. However when you get close but not all the way, the remaining inconsistencies really irritate customers. So flawless execution is a must.
And though consistency is a necessary quality in creating iconic customer experiences, it alone is not sufficient. You can’t be average or interchangeable if you want to be iconic; you have to be delightful and unique. That's the reason iconic customer experiences defy standardization and always will. Standardization is the last thing you want when it comes to your customer experience. It kills your chances of becoming iconic.
Given this logic, the customer experience will never become standardized. (If it did, it would no longer be a competitive advantage for brands.) And based on this, we can make some predictions. Customer experiences will continue to see a high rate of innovation because of its importance. The pressure to delight customers beyond the competition will only increase. The high rate of innovation will lead to an ever-changing environment at an increasing pace.
Why are open architectures winning?
Such fast-changing scenarios are a good fit for certain kind of architectures and a fundamental challenge for others. Static or stiff structures usually break when the sand underneath is shifting. So because dynamic environments require agility and flexibility, small things, loosely coupled have a real strategic advantage in that they can be rearranged to adjust quickly.
In software terms, this means monolithic platforms are generally a bad fit for developing iconic customer experiences. In the short term, they may excel at standardization and efficiency for backend processes. But when it comes to the innovative, delightful, and iconic part? They fail.
What should brand executives do to succeed?
Brand executives expecting to create iconic customer experiences with a monolithic platform are in for a rude awakening. They're destined to end up with an expensive project that produces an unremarkable customer experience. Because the hard truth is: You can’t buy one off the shelf. There is no short cut. Brands need to select the best components and design their own customer experience. They need to mix their own cocktail.
So here's my advice for brand executives:
- Be the mixologist for your own customer experience
- Make agility a strategic imperative in all decisions
- Demand open platforms and avoid all-in-one solutions
- Aim to broaden your future options
- Require time-to-value in weeks not years
- Move fast and iterate quickly
In my recent conversations with brand executives, I’ve noticed a pattern. All stated a desire to move faster. When I asked them about their main business goal for implementing CoreMedia’s Content Experience Platform, they consistently mentioned speed and agility. Increased flexibility, empowerment of business users, and lower cost of ownership were seen as secondary.
I believe we are observing digital Darwinism at work, and I predict agility will become even more strategic than it is today.
What does this mean for the digital experience technology market?
Based on this insight, we can effectively predict trends in the digital experience market:
- Open platforms will thrive because they delivery higher agility
- The digital experience technology market will defy effective consolidation due to a high rate of innovation
- Back-end processes will become standardized, but customer-facing processes will not
- Continuous delivery will win against large, expensive rip & replace projects
- Brand executives will become even more tech-savvy buyers
What does this mean for CoreMedia?
We at CoreMedia subscribe to the power of open platforms, best-of-breed architectures, and continuous innovation. Therefore, we couldn’t be more excited about these trends. They are the foundation for our long-term success and the very high loyalty rate of our customers. CoreMedia’s biggest USP is that we empower our customers to move fast and innovate freely.
Our clients use our technology as a strategic content platform at the core of their value creation. They use it to innovate and do things we’ve never thought of before. And they use it to drive change by repeatedly creating unique new experiences. Nothing holds them back to integrate other best-of-breed components quickly and efficiently.
To all brand executives: If you'd like to move quickly and reshape your own customer experience, I’m happy to take a look and see what CoreMedia can do for you. Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn or Twitter.